Asia could face food harmonisation difficulties, warn group

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Southeast asia Asean

A move to harmonise food supplement law across ASEAN countries
could become as complex as those being tackled in the EU, a
consultancy group has warned.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1967, and in 1997 it adopted its Vision 2020 programme aimed at creating closer economic integrations and, ultimately, leading to an ASEAN economic community. Health care was established as one of 11 priority areas of harmonisation, and the Traditional Medicines and Health Supplements working group was created to force regulation in this market that would over-ride pre-existing national regulations. Simon Pettman, director of food law consultancy EAS said that because most of the regulatory frameworks in the ten countries that make up the (ASEAN) are vastly different from one another, the region faces equal diversities and similar complexities as those currently being tackled in the EU harmonisation process Pettman added that while the harmonisation process would bring significant opportunities for the region's companies and markets, a potential complication for ASEAN is that it does not yet have equivalent pan-ASEAN governmental structures to those in Europe. He said: "Considering the lack of large governmental structures in ASEAN, such as a regional court, the progress that is being made is very impressive. "There is no doubt that this harmonisation process will be of huge importance in the region and as a reference point for regulators in the rest of the world." ​ The implementation, as in Europe, is often the biggest challenge, Pettman told, and specialist advice from companies and experts from experience in other regions is likely to prove "valuable." The Traditional Medicines and Health Supplements will cover three main areas for supplements regulation - definition of category, maximum levels, and health claims. In addition to covering areas such as notification and registration, negative listing of ingredients and maximum levels, they are also developing pan-ASEAN Good Manufacturing Practices. The ASEAN supplements industry is currently estimated to be worth around US$1.5bn (c €1.17bn), and is growing at a rate of around 10 per cent per year. Part of the reason for this growth is the rise of disposable incomes, enabling more consumers to purchase products beyond their basic food needs. In Europe, the commission is in the process of harmonising maximum and minimum mineral and vitamin levels across the bloc. The drafting of the rules had caused some concern across member states which varied, sometimes dramatically, on what they currently allow. The ten countries that make up ASEAN are: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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